Two towns, two festivals
LIZ PINKEY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS The Leiby Belgians made their rounds of downtown Tamaqua, pulling the trolley behind them.
Sunday's beautiful fall weather helped to bring a large crowd out to Tamaqua's 25th Annual Heritage Festival.
"I think the number is between 8,000 and 10,000," said Chamber of Commerce executive director and festival organizer Linda Yulanavage. "It has really just been a wonderful day for the crowd."
Most of the town's historical venues, including the Hegarty Blacksmith Shop and the Historical Society Museum were also open. There was a variety of musical entertainment throughout the entire festival. The biggest attractions were the train rides, which left from the historic railroad station. One ride went south to the New Ringgold area, while the other two went north, over the High Bridge in Hometown. All three of the rides were nearly sold out.
A steady crowd lined the sidewalks of the downtown throughout the entire day. Tamaqua Historical Society president Dale Freudenberger said that the current economic situation actually helps bring the crowds to the local festival.
"This is really an affordable way for families to spend a full day out," he said. "There really is something for everyone. The entertainment is free. There are many attractions, like the Historical Society Museum, the craft fair, the car show, that are also free. Then, you can spend a few dollars on the train ride as a highlight," he recommended. "It really is a fun day for everyone."
Freudenberger led several walking tours through the historic downtown.
"People are always surprised by the history that is here," he said. "There is just so much history here that people don't know about."
This year's festival also landed on the same weekend as Tamaqua High School's homecoming festivities.
"This weekend helps serve as a homecoming for many people, gives them a chance to get back into town, maybe find out something they didn't know about the history of the town" said Freudenberger.
Organizers tried to increase the availability of the festival to everyone this year. Following some requests from local residents to improve the handicap accessibility of the festival, workers had their work cut out for them to try to accommodate the vendors and requisite openings on the sidewalks.
"I feel that we did a really good job," said Yulanavage. "We accomplished what we set out to do."
The biggest challenges were the tents that many vendors use to cover their wares, protecting them from the weather.
"The placement of all of the vendors with tents had to be changed," said Yulanavage. "About 90 percent of the vendors have tents, so the entire festival really had to be laid out all over again. Some of our vendors couldn't be placed where they had always been placed. Along Broad Street, in some places, we just had to leave an empty space, because a tent wouldn't fit there," she added.
Despite the challenges of reorganizing the whole festival, everything was still ready by Sunday morning. Yulanavage added that she was contacted again this year by new vendors.
"After all these years, we are still attracting new vendors and everyone always asks when the next festival is so that they can plan to be here."
Freudenberger said that most of the vendors that he talked to had done very well throughout the day.